Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can affect many aspects of your life. However, there are some simple tips and techniques to help reduce its impact.

Self-care

Self-care involves taking responsibility for your own health and wellbeing with support from people involved in your care.

People living with long-term conditions can benefit enormously if they receive support for self-care. They can live longer, have less pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue, a better quality of life and are more active and independent.

Take your medication

It’s important to take your medication as prescribed, even if you start to feel better. Continuous medication can help prevent flare-ups. If you have questions or concerns about the medication you’re taking or side effects, talk to your healthcare team.

It may also be useful to read the information leaflet that comes with the medication about possible interactions with other drugs or supplements. Check with your healthcare team if you plan to take any over the counter remedies, such as painkillers, or any nutritional supplements. This is because these can sometimes interfere with your medication.

Regular reviews

Because COPD is a long-term condition, you’ll be in regular contact with your healthcare team. A good relationship with the team allows you to easily discuss your symptoms or concerns. The more the team knows, the more they can help you.

Regular meetings with a healthcare professional may also mean that any complications of COPD are spotted early. These include:

  • cor pulmonale, a condition where there is raised pressure in the arteries of the lungs (the pulmonary arteries), and the body retains fluid
  • depression

Keeping well

Everyone with a long-term condition such as COPD is encouraged to get a yearly flu jab each autumn to protect against flu. They are also recommended to get an anti-pneumococcal vaccination, a one-off injection that protects against serious infection caused by pneumococcal bacteria.

Check the weather

Check the forecast as the weather might have an effect on COPD symptoms. Cold spells lasting at least a week and periods of hot weather and humidity can cause breathing problems.

Watch what you breathe

To reduce symptoms of COPD and chances of a flare-up, there are certain things that should be avoided if possible, including:

  • dusty places
  • fumes, such as car exhausts
  • smoke
  • air freshener sprays or plug-ins
  • strong-smelling cleaning products, unless there is plenty of ventilation
  • hairspray
  • perfume

    Exercise

    People with COPD who exercise or keep active regularly have improved breathing, less severe symptoms and a better quality of life.

    For most people with COPD who are disabled by their breathlessness, a structured programme of pulmonary rehabilitation provided by experienced healthcare professionals does the most good. Getting breathless is unpleasant but it isn’t harmful. Every patient should exercise as much as they can, however limited that may be, twice a day. Even chair-bound people can do some arm and upper-body movements.

    Research shows that pulmonary rehabilitation improves exercise capacity, breathlessness and health-related quality of life. It results in people seeing doctors less often and spending less time in hospital.

    Maintain a healthy weight

    Carrying extra weight can make breathlessness worse. Therefore, it is a good idea to lose weight if you are overweight. This can be difficult because the breathlessness caused by COPD can make it hard to exercise.

    However, some people with COPD find that they lose weight. Eating food high in protein and taking in enough calories is important to maintain a healthy weight.

    Research has shown that people with COPD who are underweight will have fewer COPD symptoms if they increase their weight. Source

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